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Free organic gardening classes teach easy-to-use techniques

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Chuck Talburt was involved with organic gardening back when it wasn’t in fashion.

As a public health microbiologist, he began experimenting with soils and saw that organic materials produced higher yields.

He also noted that the veggies he grew tasted so much better than those he could buy in the store. And what’s more, they were higher in nutrients and easier on his digestive system.

His enthusiasm for organic gardening and his desire to share his knowledge with others led him to offer free classes about the subject to his fellow congregants at the Bear Creek Community Church in Woodinville.

“I began teaching classes three years ago in the hopes of encouraging some of our members and their friends to take up vegetable gardening the organic way,” explains Talburt. “My other motivation for doing this was to be able to donate any of the extras to the Woodinville Storehouse food bank located at the Woodinville United Community Methodist Church.

“I am one of the board members there and it has been our intention to provide, during the growing season, good nutritious, fresh, organically grown vegetables to our clients, most of who live in the Woodinville area.”

This year, the local man is opening his classes to anyone in the community. He plans to cover a range of topics including soil health, garden design, water-saving mulching, composting, plant propagation and home canning methods.

Weekly sessions will be highly interactive and hands-on, and students are welcome to share their gardening tips and advice, as well as any problems they are having with their own gardens.

“I also have a seed exchange program, where students bring in little bags of extra seeds they may have and exchange them for other seeds,” comments Talburt. “It’s a great way to help defray costs and get a variety of different seeds to plant.”

After the course is finished, Talburt continues to be available for consultation.

He volunteers to visit students’ gardens, help them with design plans and be available to assist in diagnosing and treating problems.

All of the people he has taught over the past three years are now successful organic gardeners.

“They just needed a bit of encouragement and some techniques to use,” says Talburt. “I tell everyone that if they take my class and do what I say, they will get wonderful produce.”

Organic gardening often scares off people and Talburt notes that the reasons for this fear often revolve around myths.

“People think that you’ll have a big problem with pest control, but this is not the case, provided you prepare your soil correctly,” he explains. “People also think plants won’t be healthy if you don’t use some sort of chemical fertilizer. This isn’t true. There are a number of other options and ways to build your soil without chemicals. And it’s actually easier and cheaper to garden organically.”

The main benefit of gardening organically, however, is not about saving money, according to Talburt. “It’s really about the quality of the produce,” he explains. “It’s just so much better tasting and better for you. You know what you’re growing and you know it’s safe for you. You can eat your vegetables fresh from the garden because you know what’s in them.” Talburt also likes to emphasize one of the side benefits of this pursuit, namely the ability to share the bounty with others, whether it’s friends, neighbors, colleagues or your community food bank. He adds, “Everyone appreciates getting fresh, nutritious, organically grown vegetables.”

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